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THE TRESSES OF THE DAY STAR

"MR. GOULD'S Humming Birds at the
Zoological GardensSixpence extra." Plain
prose and very sensible. But with these
feathered jewels still glittering in our vision,
we cannot call them by any less delicate
name than some one of the charming Indian
terms which belong to the poetry of their
associations. They shall remain in our memory
under "the pretty, fond, adoptious christendoms,"
by some of which the ancient Mexicans
expressed their love for these most brilliant
of living creatures. They shall be to us
"rays of the sun "—"rose-suckers"—"myrtle-
suckers"—"hill stars"—"hermits"—"comets"
—"stars of the morning"—"tresses of the day
star." When we leave the building in which
many hundreds of these exquisite things are
grouped under glass-cases, we will strive to
forget that their beauty is not  quite  animate.
The skill of the naturalist, who has formed
this wondrous collection, has given to them
almost a life-like variety. They hang amidst
fuchsia flowers, or float over beds of bromelia.
They sit in their nests upon two white eggs,
ready to disclose their "golden couplets."
They dart long beaks into deep, tubular,
flowers, hovering beneath the pendant bells.
They poise themselves in the air, we hear not
the humming of the wings, but we can almost
fancy there is a voice in that beauty. Cortes
saw their radiant plumage in embroidered
pictures, and in the mantles of Montezuma.
The stern conqueror saw and was astonished.
What Cortes saw of the spoils of the Humming
Birds, was far inferior to this artificial
representation of their varied existence.

But how was this marvellous collection
formed? "When were the birds sent over?"
was a question we heard asked. It has been
one of the many labours of an earnest and
thoughtful man's life to get together this
unrivalled assemblage. He began with a little
case of the most beautiful and curious, picked
out of the odd groups of glass domes in
curiosity shops. He has sometimes bought a
specimen for a dozen pence, and sometimes
for as many guineas. They have come from
the South American Continent and the
Antilles; sometimes in packing-cases, sometimes
in a letter containing a single bird.
The fortunate possessors of the rarer species
are known to the naturalists of all countries.
Those who have secured a specimen considered
unique, are looked upon with the same
sort of admiring envy that gathers round the
owner of a genuine Correggio. Call not this
enthusiasm by any irreverent name! The
passion for collecting and preserving rare
objects of nature has raised natural history
into a science. It has enlarged the domain of
the useful and the beautiful. It has made
such men as Wilson and Audubon. It has
given England one naturalist who has trod in
the path of these illustrious observers with pre-eminent
success. His history is instructive.

Some twenty-five or thirty years ago, there
was a young man whose "daily walks and
ancient neighbourhood " were by the quiet
creeks that branch from the Thames, near
Eton, or on the verge of the adjacent forest.
He is sometimes, apparently idle, lying under
the willow branches in a little boat, with
a book on his knee, and a gun by his side.
There is a well-known soundand the gun
is cocked. The king-fisher has darted upon
his finny prey, falling into the stream like
a lump of lead. As he rises with the
minnow, and his orange breast and green
blue tail glitter in the evening sun, his flight
is ended. In a few days he is stuffed, sitting
on a pendant bough, ready for the plunge.
The unscientific bird-stuffers are amazed that
there can be life in death.

In process of time this young man has
made a considerable collection. He is the
possessor of a few books of Zoology, but most
especially does "Bewick's Birds " delight him.
He earnestly longs to become a scientific naturalist;
to attain to something more than the
mechanical skill for which he has gained
a reputation. The opportunity arises. He
leaves his native town, being engaged by the
Zoological Society in the preparation of specimens
for their Museum. He marries. His
wife has a remarkable talent for delineating
objects of Natural History with accuracy and
taste. They publish a beautiful example of
their joint ability; he, as the scientific author;
she, as the accomplished artist: "A Century of
Birds from the Himalaya Mountains." Their
success is complete. Henceforth, JOHN GOULD,
the young man who had sold stuffed birds at
Eton, is to take rank amongst the best naturalists
of his age.

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